Ari Onassis was a business partner but above all a very good friend of mine for many years until his death in 1975. It was great to know him and fantastic to be involved in his odyssey and contributes to build his empire. There are so many things that are said about Ari and by creating this blog I want to reflect the reality about him to make sure his memory is not stained by gossiping people that don't know anything about him. You can also view my website:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Movie on Aristotle Onassis

There are mainly 2 movies about Ari and I would like to give my view on them......I am still waiting for a real movie about Ari as the two movies that have been released few years back are not reflecting very well Ari's personality and life. This is mainly because they are based on biographer that are not reliable and that wrote about Ari just to make a living...such as Peter Evans..

1 - THE GREEK TYCOON Directed by J. Lee Thompson Screenplay by Mort Fine, with Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Quinn

In one scene Jacqueline Bisset, playing the Jacqueline Kennedy role, complains about the cuisine on the yacht; she's really not into Greek food. What would she prefer? inquires Anthony Quinn, playing the Aristotle Onassis role. Italian? French? The latter. No problem! he cries. He'll have it flown in daily from Maxim's, though how he expects to keep the white sauce from separating in flight is not clear. But the point is made: we are here in the lap of a luxe so grand as to be unimaginable to us poor mortals who count ourselves lucky to fly in the general direction of Maxim's a few times during our lives.
But we must not think that the makers of this film intend merely to wow us with gaudy excess. No, no, no. They have soul. Quinn is discovered brooding sadly over his wife's beauty. Why does it make him gloomy? Because, he says, all beautiful things must eventually fade. That is in the nature of things. He is full of such slack epigrams, otherwise known as folk wisdom. Though this trait is more laughable than memorable, it serves the function of making him human, despite his wealth, his international wheeling and dealing, his lusty eye for wenches. Indeed, since everyone who has been in reach of a newspaper over the past 15 years knows in broad outline the later-life stories of Jackie and Ari, the movie's only surprise is the attitude that it takes toward them. It is not sensational or lascivious; it is, strangely enough, rather sweet-spirited. The Greek Tycoon doesn't even have a good decadent party scene.

Oh, "Theo" is crude, a little vulgar in his materialism, but really kind of nice once you get to know him. "Liz" is, perhaps, a bit standoffish, but also quite a nice girl once she loosens up. Of course, they have their tempestuous moments, but what marriage doesn't have its rough spots? The pair settle down very nicely together on the yacht or his private island, and she even gets used to his little quirks — like not getting rid of his mistress after the marriage. Later, following the death of his son, Theo is seen suddenly to age. Liz shows a steely side; she is frightfully patient as he turns into Zorba right be fore her eyes.

For all we groundlings know, that may really be how it was between the historical figures on whom The Greek Tycoon is based, and certainly the reality of their lives together is none of our business. On the other hand, if you are going to be so tasteless as to start a movie like this one, it seems silly to try to act discreet once you go to work on it. Maybe the producers were afraid of offending what they would surely refer to as "powerful interests." More likely, though, given their laughably naive notions of just how the rich are different from you and me, they couldn't imagine their lovers acting any differently from some Scarsdale or Beverly Hills pair trying to make a go of a second marriage.
So. if one gives the film makers high marks for pleasantness of temperament, one must also charge them with that most heinous of show-biz crimes: dullness relieved only by an occasional flight of vapidity.

On the sound track, under the words “$100 million,” we hear the church bells ringing. With such subtleties, “The Greek Tycoon” portrays the romance of this Greek shipping tycoon who… oh, the hell with it: The movie's about Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy, and let's have no more beating about the bush.
The names are disguised: Tomasis for Onassis, Cassidy for Kennedy and (straining slightly) a singer named Matalas for Maria Callas. But the people buying the tickets aren't fooled, and I've rarely felt stranger, sitting in an audience, than I did during “The Greek Tycoon.” There was a sort of unhealthy hush, an almost ghoulish attention being paid: The first time Jacqueline Bisset appeared on screen, her hair and sunglasses and makeup carefully suggesting Jacqueline Kennedy, the women in the audience nodded to themselves and whispered to each other: “She looks just like her!”
And Anthony Quinn, of course, looks a lot like Aristotle Onassis, especially with those famous thick-rimmed, tinted glasses he takes off only once (on his wedding night). “The Greek Tycoon” follows the lives of its real-life counterparts so carefully, indeed, that it's almost distracting. After the assassination of the President, after the courtship and marriage of the tycoon and the widow, we know the tycoon's only son is going to be killed in an airplane crash; we expect the tragic news every time the telephone rings.
“The Greek Tycoon” was not made without a certain style, and it cost a lot of money, but watching it is somehow like witnessing a multimillion-dollar cinematic edition of the National Enquirer. When the tycoon visits his doctor, indeed, we almost expect the doc to introduce a revolutionary new high-fiber diet and casually drop the fact that Burton and Taylor are also among his patients.
The movie is wonderfully efficient at giving us some notion of how Greek billionaires live: There's a vicarious luxury to be enjoyed watching the yacht, the island, the mistresses, the parties, the cars, the jewels, the airplanes and even the bathrobes. But isn't the movie a little callous in suggesting that the President's widow was also essentially a cash purchase by the tycoon -- and saw herself as such? Or did she? The movie never really deals with her feelings.
Now, then. All of that said, I must give credit where due: The role of the tycoon is wonderfully well-acted by Anthony Quinn, and the movie's good moments are all his. A scene in a Greek restaurant where he dances, drinks ouzo, smashes plates and almost seduces Bisset. A scene where he fights with his new bride. The scene in which he learns of the death of his son. And the movie's last scene, in which, knowing he will die, he goes to drink wine with peasants, and to dance by himself in the sunset. Without Quinn, “The Greek Tycoon” would be unbearable. But he populates its rubble with a masterful performance.

2 - TV Movie Onassis: The Richest Man in the World, starring Raul Julia, Jane Seymour and Francesca Annis.

Raul Julia, 6-foot-2, plays Aristotle Onassis, 5-foot-5, in the two-part, four-hour "Onassis: The Richest Man in the World" (Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).
In the zillion photos of Onassis, he always looked shorter than the women in his life. Not so here. But the height isn't the only discrepancy. Julia's face is soft and flat; Onassis' was much stonier.
Except for his height, Anthony Quinn--who played a version of Onassis in "The Greek Tycoon"--more closely resembled him. Quinn shows up again in "Onassis," this time as Ari's father Socrates (and Quinn's son Lorenzo appears as Ari's son).
Quinn is allowed to reprise his Zorba the Greek dance just before Socrates keels over and dies--and Julia does a similar dance in the opening sequence. It's as if the film makers are clinging to the popular Zorba's coattails, irrelevant though they may be.

Yet though writers Jacqueline Feather and David Seidler (drawing from "Ari," by Peter Evans) and director Waris Hussein found the time to revive the Zorba imagery, they skipped much of Onassis' life, including such potentially juicy chapters as his years in New York and Hollywood during World War II. In one scene, Bobby Kennedy reels off an FBI list of allegations against Onassis; not one of them is mentioned again, so the truth of them is left hanging.
Nor are there any extended scenes that would have let Julia demonstrate the conversational skills that were ascribed to Onassis. We're left wondering why women--and Sir Winston Churchill too--found this man so charming.
Instead, after a fairly interesting (though inevitably condensed) account of the young Ari's turbulent late teens (in which Elias Koteas cuts a dashing figure as young Ari), "Onassis" dwells on the familiar romances with Maria Callas (Jane Seymour) and Jackie Kennedy (Francesca Annis). Even these scenes come off as perfunctory and occasionally misleading.
I can appreciate how difficult it must be for a screenwriter and director to try and condense such an interesting man's life story that spans over 50 plus years of history into a two hour time capsule. Having said that, when you have such superb leading actors as Raul Julia and Anthony Quinn (Academy award nominee Best Actor in Zorba the Greek) you have an opportunity many other films do not get for instant credibility.

Even with the benefit of top notch actors like Raul Julia and Anthony Quinn I was not impressed with the movies stop gap approach to how the years (and in some cases decades) progressed in Aristotle Onassis life. In one scene Onassis's hair is jet black, in another scene his hair changes to silver grey, and in the very next scene his hair is completely white. I know life passes us by when we don't expect it, but this bio movie was almost laid out in bullet points, rather than with any depth of character and story basis.

I was very disappointed with the choice of Jane Seymour to play Maria Callas. I like Jane Seymour in some of her other movies, but as Maria Callas? You have got to be kidding? Her accent was so bad and her teary scenes for the love of her life breaking her heart again and again were just not very good.

I know this review is critical but I would have preferred the biography to concentrate on a specific time period in Onassis's life, whether it was as a teenager when his father's wealth and home were taken over by the military and he stayed behind living with the commander as his male geisha, or how he built his shipping empire, or even the time period his passion for both Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy were in full bloom.

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